You Need To Hear The Spidery Love Songs Of Norwegian Newcomer Okay Kaya

Kaya Wilkins coughs violently and blows her nose into a tissue. “I didn’t know how hard ballet dancers party! They’ve ruined me,” says the 23-year-old Norwegian, who writes spidery love songs as Okay Kaya. In London preparing for her debut headline show, Kaya blames her cold on the cast of Tree Of Codes, the ballet for which her friend Jamie xx composed the score. The singer recorded vocals and guitar for the soundtrack and recently celebrated the show’s premiere in Manchester with its cast. “The dancers were smoking like chimneys and drinking mad lagers,” she explains. “I feel terrible.”

Being snotty and miserable suits Kaya, who grew up in Oslo suburb Nesoddtangen, the only daughter of a Norwegian mother and an American father. A self-taught guitarist, her first experience of playing music was thrashing out metal dirges with older brother Sebastian, drummer in black metal band Asaru (“I was a shit guitarist, we just made noise!”). After moving first to London and then New York (where she still lives) to pursue a modelling career at 18, Kaya began writing twisted ballads in her Brooklyn bedroom. “I write when it’s dark,” she says, “songs about love and relationships, like ‘fuck the world’. It feels over the top, but they’re strong emotions and when they’re written down I can chill.”

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Kaya’s songs are both chilled and chilling. Last year’s acoustic debut track ‘Clouds’ twinkles like a music box. Rodaih McDonald (Adele, The xx, King Krule) produced the dark, slow ‘Damn Gravity’, and ‘Clenched Teeth’ builds tension with fingerpicking and wispy vocals. New single ‘I’m Stupid But I Love You’ is her softest track yet, an old song rewritten on piano with Canadian songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr, who Kaya met in Los Angeles last winter. “I stayed alone in LA for Christmas. I didn’t know anyone, so my manager set us up,” she explains. The pair, who have “got really close and started collaborating” toured together earlier this year. Kaya admits she “died of stage fright,” but as she works towards a debut album with a secret list of collaborators, her insecurities are evaporating. One thing that won’t change though, is her subject matter. “Jamie xx asked me recently if I’ll ever write a happy song,” she finishes, “I was like, ‘what do you think?’”

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